LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — Steve Miller remembers being a kid, around 14 or 15, hoping to catch a glimpse of those sunbathing Las Vegas showgirls. He and his buddies would drive motorized scooters through the Meadows Village neighborhood in the early 1960s because word was the girls often could be seen lying poolside in the nude.

Which, of course, would pique the interest of teen boys. So to the former councilman, the origin of “Naked City” and how it applies to Las Vegas comes from those sunbathing showgirls.

“We knew it was the preferred residence of dancers and showgirls on the Strip,” says Miller, 78, whose family came to the city from Los Angeles in 1959. “We never hesitated to head in that direction because the girls were always out by the pool.”

So Meadows Village, a neighborhood of mostly apartment complexes that now abuts the Stratosphere hotel-casino, north of West Sahara Avenue and west of South Las Vegas Boulevard, became known as “Naked City.”

A racy origin, indeed. Urban legend says the showgirls and dancers sunbathed au naturel to eliminate tan lines. Show producers frowned on such unattractiveness.

Miller says for several years — before getting married, he’ll have you know — he’d use any excuse possible to visit the Gateway District streets named after cities and states, oftentimes to date a showgirl, dancer or cocktail waitress. “Whenever I could, I broke away from what I was doing,” he says of his excursions to the neighborhood.

And there’s the reason for Las Vegas businesses today named Naked City Pizza, Naked City Audio, Naked City Sweets and Naked City Services.

But many, including local historians, are skeptical. They say the term relates to much later in the city’s history, to the 1980s, when the same streets were riddled with crime. Now the area related more to “The Naked City,” a 1948 film noir about the police hunt for the killer of a New York City model which later inspired a gritty television series (1958 to 1963) of the same name. Stories of urban decay, dangerous streets, drugs, murder, gang violence.

“The crime story is the story, no matter where the nickname originated from or if younger people even knew of the original movie and TV show,” says Joseph Thomson, a local history expert who is working on his doctorate at UNLV. “The name fit.”

The administrator of the Vintage Las Vegas Facebook page – who would prefer his name not be used for this story  – agrees. After extensive research on the subject, he determined the showgirl story was a convenient way for the area’s property owners – including Strat developer/owner Bob Stupak – to rebrand after authorities addressed the 1980s crime wave.

“They wanted to give the neighborhood a fresh face, and the story of the showgirls worked,” the page chief of Vintage Las Vegas says.

In his research, the Vintage Las Vegas administrator found not one photo of girls sunbathing in Meadows Village. The closest he came was three 1958 photos by Life Magazine’s Allan Grant, showing curvy showgirls sunbathing in the nude poolside at the Las Vegas home of burlesque king Harold Minsky.

In the 1950s and 1960s, residents of Meadows Village, which was 90% apartment complexes as Miller remembers, say the area was safe and quiet.

Gail McQuary was 19 in 1956 when she started dancing at the Sahara Hotel and Casino. She lived in a Meadows Village apartment on Boston Avenue with two other dancers. In a 1997 oral history interview at the UNLV Digital Collections website, she says she doesn’t remember the “Naked City” reference to the area.

“And let me tell you the naked city then was not the naked city now,” McQuary says. “It wasn’t even called that. It was just Boston. We had a beautiful apartment on Boston and I used to walk to work.”

Longtime hotel-casino worker Janie Steele once lived in Meadows Village, too. In a Facebook post a few years ago when she retired, she recalled seeing girls sunbathing poolside. “I never saw anyone naked, but they did have awfully tiny little bikinis.”

Bob Stoldal, a longtime TV executive in Las Vegas, lived in an apartment in Meadows Village when his family moved to Southern Nevada in 1956. He did see glamorous showgirls sunbathing. And he remembers one jaw-dropping encounter with attractive showgirls in the lobby of a complex. As a junior in high school and with the girls’ dress, or lack of dress, Stoldal describes himself as dumbfounded.

But did he ever see sunbathers au naturel? “Nude? Nope.”

Miller, who as a councilman represented Meadows Village, figures the term has two lives. Which you believe depends on how you read Las Vegas history and its many legends.

“Early on, it was a really nice place,” he says. “The buildings weren’t that old, and neither were the girls.

“Then the area changed. The girls moved out. Crime moved in, and the new connotation took hold, reflecting the crime in the area.”

For the record, Miller says his last social visit to the nicer Meadows Village was in 1964, for a date.

And, yes, in his many trips to the apartments there he did see some nude girls poolside. Mostly innocent, he says. “Because they quickly turned over on their tummies when my friends and I went into the pool area.”